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February 2013

Hit Publish Or Perish

As we drove to Family Dinner Out the other night Caroline endeavored to improve our collective minds by reading aloud in the car. The book was a child's guide to New Zealand (sent by relatives who are currently touring those imaginary islands) and contained all sorts of useful information; like the fact that although many New Zealanders identify themselves as chreeteeans (with blah percentage being Proteesants and another blah Roman Cat-oh-licks) Caroline informed us that "about a third of the population belongs to no re... re... ridiculous group at all."

Caroline is nothing if not self-confident and listening to her boldly hack her way through all those pesky letters is like the best game of telephone ever.

Steve has vowed that one of his new conversational gambits will be to ask people if they adhere to any particular ridiculous. Since he has already offended, um, everyone we know who he is going to offend I told him to go for it. He's That Guy. 

Edward continues

[Edward et al are currently attending tumbling class. I just glanced over to see Edward carefully pick his way down an angled balance beam, hop over whatever it was he was supposed to hop over and then jump off the end. His teacher made him climb back up because... he had forgotten his pre-jump jazz hands. Seriously. Jazz hands]

Edward continues to conduct his banned nighttime infiltrations into our bed. In the morning I roll over, meet resistence and open my eyes to find Edward smiling and blinking at me from two inches away. His stories vary.

Two days ago he took the offensive:

"Where... where am I?" he asked. "What are you doing here?"

"You are in my bed, Edward, and the real question is what are YOU doing here?"

"I haf no idea. I must've been sleepwalking."

Yesterday he tried a Lesser of Two Evils Defense:

"Well I got up in the midduh of the night and I was going to go play xbox but I remembered I need to ask permission to play xbox so I came to your bed instead."

This morning... well this morning I think I slept on my side funny because I was sort of half-awake when I realized that one arm was completely numb. So numb that I could not move it of my own volition, thus I reached over to grab it with my other hand in order to shake it around and get the blood flowing. I tugged and tugged and I still couldn't feel it so I started slapping it against the bed until Steve finally emerged from his cocoon of blankets and growled, "What are you doing? Stop pulling at my arm."

I opened my eyes and realized that my numb arm was still pinned to my side and the arm I had been trying to work like a pump did in fact belong to Steve. And, now that he mentioned it, it was rather muscular and, you know, hairy. I mumbled an apology and started to explain that I felt like I was half corpse.

Edward popped up from the other side of the bed.

"Be quiet!" he said peevishly. "I'm still seeping ovuh here."


A Couple of Yesterdays Ago

You have probably been wondering what happens when you accidentally wash an entire load of laundry with several cloves of raw garlic. Good news (or GOOD NEWS! as Caroline trills every morning before telling us that she is awake now) I can answer that for you: it reeks. You open the door to the washing machine and the smell of it reaches out and punches you right between the eyes. Why the aroma of garlic sauteed in butter is so enticing that it makes you want to pull snails off the rose bush and eat them, while garlic after a rinse cycle is nauseating I have no idea but there it is. I have now re-washed this particular load of clothes three times and it still smells like... well, the analogy that springs to mind is too indelicate to share so something something urrhurrnmm Mediterranean cough cough.

Bleh.

What? How did garlic get into the washing machine?

I have no bloody idea but my general response to everything (Where did all that money go? Why haven't we seen Argo? Who poured a metric ton of Cheerios between the back seats of the car?) seems to apply here as well: children (accompanied by a mystified fluttery wave of both hands.)

Which reminds me, we had dinner the other week with our friends who are most emphatically childfree by choice and the look of frank pity on her face as she asked about our upcoming travel plans (that would be: none. at the time we had zero (0) travel plans although I am now going to Chicago next week)  has me giggling again as I remember it. And she wasn't being bitchy or anything, she was just making conversation and she was genuinely sympathetic to learn that we are tied by numerous restrictions (time, priorities, finances) so very close to home for the foreseeable future. It was a funny conversation, is what I am trying to convey, when she talked about Italy and Mexico and then said so what about you, where are you headed? And I wanted to say huh, um, nowhere but Caroline lost a tooth.

You know, if online comment sections are to be believed it seems impossible that someone who has no interest whatsoever in raising children can be friends with someone like myself who apparently is interested in little else but in the real world, of course, it happens all the time. And a very good thing it is, too.

For the record they are in Hawaii this week and I spent four hours trying to make my cami-knickers less redolent of Little Italy. Just saying.

+

After we bid Edward a final fond goodnight-no-really-we-mean-it-seriously he is not allowed to leave his room except to go to the bathroom (HA! as if*) until the light on his clock turns yellow. Since the approved wake up time is 6 o'dark something this is hardly draconian but nonetheless for the past couple of weeks I have woken in the morning to find myself in the middle of the bed with Edward, his two stuffed cats, one stuffed snake and three small blankets (collectively known by him as his "cuddyies") sleeping in my place on my pillow.

When I questioned him, all exasperated, as to whether or not he remembered what I had said at bedtime he cheerfully replied, "You said I couldn't leave my room in the midduh of the night but look! I COULD! Here I am!"

I couldn't help it. I laughed.

He is at the height of preschool malapropisms.

Examples:

While reading one of Patrick's old math-based picture books: "Look Mommy! The x's mean I'm learning Baltimorcation**."

As he pursed his lips to recount a story from antiquity: "A couple of yesterdays ago... "

In response to me saying he probably did want to go to school on Wednesday since his friends were going to bring valentines and some of them might include candy: "I hope someone gives me Horseshoe Kiss Yous***."

+

Speaking of Valentine's Day (happy, by the way, to you) Patrick announced last night at 7:42 that he wanted to construct a valentine box for himself that would have a slot for candy that could open and close. With a motor. I said something supportive, like, "There is no way you are going to be able to make that even if I let you stay up past your bedtime, which I am not going to do. You have 48 minutes. Do you want me to just get you a Target bag right now or would you prefer to wait 46 minutes?"

Exhibit I Would Like To Thank My Mother Who Always Believed In Me... NOT

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That blue thing labeled Wheel of Fortune? Is attached to some random plastic stick that is attached to an even more random motor which spins on a fifteen second interval to reveal a wedge shaped opening for candy. And he was in bed with his hands folded demurely on top of the blankets like a stone effigy (a stone effigy of Righteousness) by 8:30 precisely.

He was in such a good mood this morning that he made breakfast for Caroline and Edward.

When I picked him up after school today (in the church parking lot, thankyouverymuch) I noticed that he was floating several feet above the ground. He eventually confided that there had been a contest for the best valentine box and it was done by secret ballot and he got the most votes and when the teacher said, "And the winner, obviously, is Patrick" some of the sixth graders erupted into cheers.

He might make breakfast again tomorrow.

+

Caroline and Edward got haircuts this week.

The last time I took them for a haircut the woman asked me if I used a special swimming shampoo for Caroline. It reminded me of when the dental hygenist asks if I am flossing twice a day

[Why? Why do they ask? Either I say, "No" which evokes a knee-jerk, "You know you really should be flossing twice a day" or I lie and say yes and they give me a look that says, lady, I am up to my elbows in your mouth right now and you are trying to tell me that you floss twice a day? PLEASE]

and I had the same reaction.

"Yes!" I said brightly. "We do use a swimmers' shampoo."

She raised her eyebrows and said, "Ummmmm OOOOOOKKKKKKK but her hair is just coated in chlorine. I can't get a brush through it" and I thought Ah Ha! because I can't get a brush through it either and many a heated battle has been pitched across our house as I have attempted to brush Caroline into submission. Who knew it was caused by chlorine build-up?

So I said, oh, well, maybe I could use a different swimmers' shampoo and I left with the $12 bottle that I had been trying to avoid from the beginning. I also felt like a fool because I lied and she knew I lied and do you know what Hercule Poirot said? He said there are three people to whom a woman must always tell the truth: her father confessor, her hair dresser and her private detective.

Anyway the pricey shampoo helped, some, but her hair was still pretty sticky so I suggested we cut it off and Caroline agreed. We opted for a fetching bob again.

I tried for ten minutes to get her to let me take a nice picture of a nice girl with her nice haircut but instead she insisted on channeling Tallulah Bankhead

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Edward slept on his wet hair, hence the spiky top bits.

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(Is it me or is Caroline's hair looking a little auburn? As a redhead myself I always dreamed... well.)

Finally, Steve and I started Discovery of Witches but I suspect that I will have to continue it alone. He said he doesn't like the narrator and when I asked if it was the American accent he said, "Oh my god yes! And please never speak to me again."

I think we'll start Guards! Guards! by Pratchett. Patrick and I loved (loved loved LOVED) his Tiffany Aching books and I quite enjoyed the witches by myself so... Terry Pratchett it is.

Oh and Patrick and I are about an hour into Ender's Game. Wow. It's a little difficult (emotionally. we have had to turn it off a couple of times when the main character was in straits) but quite quite good so far. So thank you, as always.

* I owe you an update on Edward and his nightly habits. We let him go commando for three, no, four weeks, during which time he wet the bed every night. Not just once, mind you, but two or sometimes three times. So much for the bed lasagne; we needed a goddamned bed Smith Island cake. So we went to the superundies which seemed ok but regrettably leaked like a sieve. They sell extra padding so we put in extra padding until it looked (and felt) like Edward had a basketball in his pajama bottoms. We did that for about a month and now we have been back to overnight diapers since then. Edward has ceased complaning about it, probably because he realizes it could be worse (see: cold wet bed x3 and giant towel wad in pants.) He has also been dry in the morning, maybe, twice in the past three months.

In conclusion: he's not ready. I ran it by his pediatrician and he said I was, of course, welcome to drive myself crazy but if it were him he'd give it more time.

PS Damn it. I forgot.

**Baltimorcation = multiplication

***Horseshoe Kiss Yous = Hershey's kisses


Listen

I have a book emergency.

I need a new series that Steve and I can listen to together. We just finished book seven of Naomi Novik's Temeraire series (book 6 was slow to the point of being deadly - all trade negotiations - but we persevered and seven was better) and now we're at loose ends.

I need an audiobook recommendation for the narrow alleys where my taste and Steve's taste intersect. Maybe historical fiction that steers clear of bodice ripping? Sci-Fi that's not scary? Fantasy that is smart? Humor that isn't a Family Circle collection? Books that we have both read and enjoyed in the past include the divine Aubrey-Maturin series and the Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett. I was hoping that someone had recorded Lymond, actually, but apparently no one did. Oh, if it helps, in television we both revered Rome, Deadwood and Battlestar Galactica.

Please advise. I have learned through driving Patrick a million miles to school that listening to books together is an experience unto itself and a very pleasant one at that.

(Oh! And we liked Harry Potter and Septimus Heap and the Golden Compass and similar whatnot.)

PS In answer to your question, no, I didn't read Amy Chua's book, mostly because I have not yet finished every other book ever written. I did, however, read her article in the Wall Street Journal (go ahead and read it here if you're just back from Mars and missed it the first time) and that was what I was referencing when I talked about changing Patrick's font. I went back today and re-read the article after a number of you recommended her book and I have to ask - what? Why? Is it completely different in book form? Because I am having a hard time imagining chapter upon chapter of that as a fun read; in fact I had to read the article in small chunks today because the whole thing made me feel... anxious.

You know what was fun, though, was asking Patrick to read the article when he got home from school and then listening to him read parts aloud to me for emphasis.

["Hey Mom! 'Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment'... I think you should encourage me to go to Colorado and then support me while I ski there."

When he was done we talked about his impressions from the article. Overall he thought Chua had some good ideas and agreed with her on the importance of sticking with things.

"Like swimming?' I asked.

"No," he said, "she specifically mentions that she thinks Westerners spend too much time with sports."

"Oh you mean like skiing," I said.

"Whatever," he said.

We talked about success and how different people might define success very differently. I asked him who he thought was successful ("Bill Gates") and why ("He made a ton of money but more than that his work has allowed people all over the world to communicate with each other.")

I said, "You know, speaking of parents and children and getting into capital G Good schools: Bill Gates went to Harvard but he dropped out before he graduated."

Patrick said, "Probably had too many sleepovers*."

For a moment I wondered if Patrick had just made a rather sophisticated (shall we say, French?) joke but then I realized he was indulging in a little dig at the article. I positively reinforced this by laughing.

PPS But seriously. I need a new audiobook-for-two. Stat! Please help!

*In the article Chua says that in her quest to raise high-achieving children she never let her daughters do things that might distract them, which included attending sleepovers or having playdates.


Every Moment Is Shining And Perfect

I pointed out the rounding thing to Patrick this morning and told him the internet suggested that maybe the quiz was looking for 0.7 or 0.67. He (coldly) informed me that since the question did not ask him to round to a tenth or a hundredth - after it rejected 2/3 - he had pressed and held the 6 key for five minutes to indicate to the online quiz that the 6's were infinite and he went on to add that a world in which the decimal equivalent for 2/3 is 0.7 is not a world in which he, personally, wants to live. He also said that he thinks it would be weird and misleading for the question to express itself in fractions (m=1/3) but expect the answer to be given as a decimal.  

I said uh-huh, yeah, I see where you are coming from and that's great and I admire the purity of your ideals but you still got 4 out of 5 on the quiz which is an 80% which is a C so perhaps... ?

He stomped off and I am reminded of the recent Book Report Incident, which went down thusly: the grading rubric for Patrick's January book report showed that points would be given for correctly presenting the title of the book and the author. This seemed like a gimme to me but when I glanced at Patrick's paper I saw that he had written: "Sabotaged" by Margaret Peterson H. 

I said, "Patrick! What happened to the author's last name?"

He said, "Oh, her whole name wouldn't fit on the line in a 28-point font so I abbreviated."

I said, "What? Just use a smaller font!"

And he said, "No. I really like the way that font size balances the subheadings further down the page."

I said, "But you didn't given the author's name. You'll lose points. Get a lower grade."

He said he was ok with that. I pressed the issue. He told me not to worry about it. I got exasperated, he got snooty. Did Jackson Pollock agree to paint a kitten in the center of all those dribbles just because his mother told him it would look nicer? No! Was Patrick going to compromise his aesthetic just because his mother thinks that a book report's function must triumph over a book report's form? No!

Once upon a time I thought that it was a given that Patrick would be a great student and my biggest worry with him was that he would continue to face out during circle time when all of the other kids were facing in but lord a'mercy... exhibit P.

PS I went all tiger mother and changed the font for him.

He said, "Great. Now the page looks lopsided. Thanks."

I said, "Patrick, it's a g.. it's a d... it's a book report. It's not a f.. it's not a piece of art."

To which he said, "Well. It certainly isn't now that you've finished with it."

PPS Not to be a full year out of date with my contribution to the obscure blog outrage collective but you know what bothered me most about the tiger mother thing? The idea that acceptance into a prestigious college and/or graduate school should ever be viewed as a measure of parental success. My mother says your job as a parent is to raise children who like themselves because every other good thing in life originates there. Granted with me she maybe could have also focused on being likeable but you should meet my big brother. He's TERRIFIC.


PS Shingles

Let's see... shingles shingles SHINGLES! Shingles Shingles shingles shingles. shingles. I think that covers it. On Saturday Steve and I saw Silver Linings Playbook (liked it) and went out to dinner (finally tried pork belly - I... I don't get it. it's like overcooked incredibly fatty pork. big deal) Other than that, you know, shingles.

Acshuwee, all hail anti-virals! From your comments (and I am deeply sorry for your past suffering) it is obvious that I got off easy. Some itching, some tenderness, a brief period of hideousness but now I am almost past it. So what was that? Ten days from beginning to end? Not bad.

[I am interrupting with a new math question for you. Patrick has just stomped into my space with steam coming out of his ears over another one of these blasted online quizzes:

Find the value of a such that the points (4,a) and (8, 3a) lie on a line with slope m=1/3

Please help before Patrick beats his computer to death with his algebra book]

Speaking of Patrick, he has been skiing once a week since Christmas and it's doing all sorts of good things for his self-confidence and social skills (and yeah his skiing but self-confidence! social skills!) On Saturday Patrick - the same Patrick who was unable to tell me the name of a single child in his first grade class - breezily informed me that he had spent the entire day riding the lifts with a girl named Grace who is ten years old, in the fourth grade and lives across the river. He is also on a first-name basis with most of the ski instructors so he greets and is greeted by an assortment of adults as we traverse the ski school. I asked him the other week what he found to discuss with the sixty year old instructor with whom he was paired all day and he said, "Small talk."

Whew. It's like and then, one day, in his own time, Patrick made small talk.

On the other side of the spectrum... I'm sure Caroline called to tell you this already or maybe you heard it from the Target cashier(s) in whom she confided or perhaps you got her tweet but SHE LOST A TOOTH.

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Huh. Wrong picture. You can't tell in this one, can you?

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There. Gap visible although, just between you and me

[I'm tempted to write "you and I" because for some reason I make that mistake often when I  talk to my mother and every single time she corrects me. So I start over again, "Well, just between you and me... " and then I stop. "What?" she asks and I have to admit that I have forgotten what I was going to say. Grammarians no doubt have a special place in heaven but what price gossip?]

Fortunately I have a visual prompt this time so, just between you and me, I think people look ridiculous when they start to lose teeth and even goofier when they grow newer big ones. To be fair in this case, though, I think Caroline looks less silly than scary. There is a touch of the kudlak about Caroline.

Edward, bless him, grew new teeth before his bottom two fell out so although he resembled a shark for a week or two he now looks like a toothpaste model - all toothy. See? You cannot even tell that he lost the middle two baby teeth a month or so ago.

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Eh. A few more of Edward because I just think he is so pretty.

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Caroline talks about leaving Minnesota a lot.

"When I am a teenager I am going*... " she begins and then usually finishes by naming the country to which she will move... Australia, Brazil, France.

"You can come with me Eddybear," she adds.

But Edward says, "Ohhhh no. Uh uh. No way. I am going to stay here and die."

I am pretty sure he means he is going to stay here until he dies and I am equally sure that by "here" he doesn't just mean Minnesota he means here, in our house, on the couch.

Frankly, I'm ok with that.

*The other day she said, "When I am a teenager I am going" and finished with "to move in with my boyfriend" and from some far reaching corner of the house came the anguished "nooooooooooooooo" of her father. 

She said "What was THAT?" and I told her it was a yeti in the woods.

"Oh," she said. 

PS 2/3. Patrick got 2/3 but his online quiz rejected it. Twice. So he tried 0.6 and then 0.666 and then 0.66666666666666 which is when he came and shouted at me. Like I have anything to do with it.